Paddle Pool is what they call a “classic.” It was first published in 1970 by Milton Bradley – (and, at one time, was apparently also called Battle Ball). And now, thanks to the playful entrepreneurs at Fundex, the children of the world can once again gleefully engage in an elegantly engaging, playfully competitive, intuitively clear game of keeping a ball out of your goal and whacking it into-anyone else’s.
Paddle Pool is at its best as a four-player game. You can modify the board for three or two players with special cardboard inserts. In case of lost inserts, you can always assign one or two players to two paddles. The game comes in a deceptively small box. With careful instruction-following, the game assembles into a 20×20 inch playing field. The court is raised in the center so that a ball, placed in the center, could roll into any of the four corners. Which is at least one good way to get the game rolling. A rod-and-paddle is snapped diagonally across each corner of the game. This allows the player to move the paddle to the right or left defend, and to twist the paddle to raise or lower the paddle to whack.
There’s place for a small scoring peg in each corner. Pegs are placed in the #5 hole. Every time the ball goes into your goal, you lose a point. The game is over as soon as one player reaches zero. The player with the highest score wins.
It’s amazing how absorbing this simple game can be. I tested it out on some junior high school kids in a special education class. The only thing I needed to explain to them was that the player who makes the ball fly off the court loses a point. This was a very useful thing for them to know. It introduced a little finesse, a bit of control, and kept the ball nicely in play. I put the game on the table, and suggested, if there were more than 4 people who wanted to play, they could play the game like Four Square – a new player coming into the game as soon as one player lost. Twenty minutes later they had the game on the floor and were blissfully playing away.
Once the game is assembled, it’s pretty much going to stay assembled. It’s sturdy enough, and the pieces fit together well-enough. And trying to take it apart and fit it all back into the box is enough to drive you to engineering school.